House shortage hurts ‘vulnerable’

Transitional housing team member Stan Reid, left, with Housing First Blenheim team leader Justin Kemp. Photo: Matt Brown.

A bid to help tackle Marlborough’s housing crisis is being hit by a lack of landlords prepared to put forward their properties.

Latest figures show 132 people or families urgently need long-term housing across the region.

And industry experts have warned society’s most vulnerable are being hit hardest, with some families living in transitional housing for more than a year.

The Christchurch Methodist Mission oversees the programme, which relies on properties from the private sector, in Blenheim.

But to date just six landlords have leased properties to the Christian organisation and 14 more properties are needed to meet the government contract.

Christchurch Methodist Mission executive director Jill Hawkey says the “supply has to increase.”

“For landlords it’s a really good deal,” she says.

Housing First is a government-funded programme aimed at the chronically homeless and looks to house those who have been living rough for more than a year.

The $197m initiative began in June in Marlborough and has housed four people with two more homeless people due to move into new accommodation this week.

“Some people in transitional housing meet the criteria, but not many,” Jill says.

Housing First Blenheim team leader Justin Kemp says the average price of a rental in Christchurch is on par with the lowest renters pay in Marlborough.

“The cost of rent is high and it’s a barrier,” he says.

The Christchurch Methodist Mission pays market rent and manages the tenancy, which they sub lease to the tenant.

Jill says damage hasn’t been an issue, however any necessary repairs are covered by the organisation.

The programme offers a wraparound service for the tenants, supporting them with “basic” services such as getting ID, help with shopping, getting licenses and registering with a GP.

It provides the homeless with a stable home before attempting to address mental health, alcohol and drug issues.

“We’re really pleased with progress made to date,” Jill says.

While the landlords receive market rent for the property, the tenants have full responsibility for their accommodation.

Rent for tenants is means tested, like other Housing New Zealand properties, and set at around 25 per cent of the person’s income.

“Housing First gives people another chance, a chance to get settled,” Jill says.

“Everyone deserves a second chance. And a third, and a fourth.”

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